2008 is remembered primarily for the financial crisis which rocked the global market and sent many nations into turmoil, but that year also marked the emergence of an even more insidious and pervasive crisis onto the global stage. The food crisis made its presence known, beginning in 2005 and peaking in 2008, with an 80 percent increase in food prices, a rise not seen since the Soviet grain emergency of 1972-75. Although the crisis has disproportionately affected developing nations, it has been felt to some degree by individuals around the world as wealth and well-being have disappeared. While we have felt the global food crisis in our wallets, people from around the world have felt the crisis in their stomachs; malnutrition causing mothers to forfeit the basic functions of life like breast feeding their child. Much like the financial crisis, it will take a great deal of coordination and innovation to formulate the necessary solutions when these are the consequences. Ultimately, this crisis concerns every individual on the planet as it continues to grow in size and severity. Though it is long and dark, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. One thing is certain; there is no room for indecision and ignorance. We will be forced to choose to deal with this solution or continue to accept the consequences of a solvable problem.
As we go about our lives in our self-proclaimed "information age," we are bombarded with countless causes, concerns and cares about all manner of things. It is a feat of herculean proportions to even concentrate on one thing, as a multitude of organizations constantly vie for our attention. I do not presume to convince you that this cause is more worthy than any other but I can offer you two suggestions. First, many of these concerns, especially ones that occur on a global scale, are interrelated. To choose to solve one is to positively affect the others. The global food crisis continues, in part, due to the interdependency of the global economy. It continues, in part, due to global climate change as increased heat-waves damage crops, reducing yields of wheat and soybean harvests by up to 30 percent by 2050. The extent of the damage caused by the global food crisis should not be underestimated. One child dies every 6 seconds from hunger-related causes. More people die of hunger every year than of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Almost one billion people regularly suffer from hunger; mostly women and children. Malnutrition prevents children from reaching their full developmental and cognitive potential. This is what we, as a global society, are faced with and it will only continue to rise as the population reaches around 9 billion people by 2050.
When facing such a large and ubiquitous problem the answer is almost counterintuitive; the simplest solution is often the best. Make small scale farmers and the communities they serve the drivers of a new form of agricultural production. This is what I and four other colleagues have set out to accomplish with the establishment of our company Hazia in December of 2012. This is not to downplay the severity or magnitude of what we face. It is daunting, and in some cases extremely dire. It is to say, however, that if we apply our ingenuity and we focus on the key concerns, there are solutions out there. There is a light. Out of struggle comes opportunity. Smallholders, regarded as farmers holding small to medium scale farms, will provide much of the extra food needed to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050. Of the estimated 925 million hungry people in the world today, 70 percent live in rural areas where agriculture is the economic mainstay; representing a demand of 648 million people. This provides the basic ingredients for what we call local-living communities, the foundation for increasing security and sustainability based around the production of food.
So what are local-living communities? With local-living communities production and consumption remain as local as possible. At Hazia we apply organizational management to small-scale farming in order to maximize yields and mitigate the risks of production as much as possible, while decreasing food waste and transportation costs. Employment is generated within these local communities by offering job and entrepreneurship opportunities with an emphasis on the employment of women. A robust market is created for the service of the local community allowing for consumption to remain local and for general levels of food and nutrition to rise. As mentioned, the majority of those most affected by hunger are located in rural areas. Local-living communities based around small-scale agricultural production do not supplant the larger global economy, but it can help to supplement it and mitigate some of its adverse effects. These solutions can and are beginning to be applied everywhere from India, to Colombia to South Central Los Angeles and with the help of people from all walks of life. Before long these communities will be popping up in your town. By serving the local communities, creating wealth and facilitating education, we can tackle the problem at its heart and provide a simple solution to a growing global concern.